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Barbaria Act 3 Chapter 1
Princess Venetia settled herself comfortably on the velvet-covered couch which had been set on the poop deck at the after end of her Flagship. She was supported by a pile of silken cushions and, as she customarily did, wore a flimsy white gown edged with purple. Her magnificent figure was clearly outlined through the thin material but Princess Venetia cared nothing for that. As the supreme arbiter of the State of Sythia, she could behave as she wished. In any event, Sythia was female-orientated. All the high positions in the Court were held by women. Men were of lower grade and had come to accept the fact. They were involved in architecture, trading, in the Army and the Navy. Women did not interfere in these matters, provided the State ran smoothly. If a commander was thought to be at fault, he was at once degraded. Any slave, male or female was available to ‘free men’ in Sythia. They were also, of course, available to the women of the Court as well. Thus we see that the social order in Sythia was slightly different from that in Barbaria. Men in Barbaria had some part to play in Court and were, from time to time, granted favours. The Court of Sythia was small; no more than 200 women. All were chosen personally by Princess Venetia for their looks, grace, intelligence and, sometimes, their youth. On rare occasions, Princess Venetia had been known to raise a captured slave to the ranks of the Court if she had special merit. This is something Princess Alexena would never have done. The ‘free men’ of Sythia were well treated and lived comfortably. It was simply that, in general, they were considered subordinate to women. On the poop deck, awaiting to attend the Princess on the instant, were half a dozen or so slaves. All female, all naked. Slaves were generally kept permanently naked except that male slaves wore a tight leather genital restrainer. This was locked on and prevented sexual intercourse between slaves. Even to attempt some kind of physical contact would earn both slaves a whipping. Princess Venetia looked down into the hold where the naked galley slaves toiled. There were ten oars on each side of the ship and two slaves shackled on to each oar, one male and one female. All the women had once been members of Princess Alexena’s Court and had ‘come along for the ride’ ... and also so that they had an opportunity to whip galley-slaves as and when they wished. The males were simply slaves of Barbaria but that did not mean there would be any release for them. They were males and would remain as slaves indefinitely. On the starboard oar was the blonde Lady Helen; alongside a hulking brute of a slave whom she had doubtless whipped on the journey out. On the port oar was the dark haired Lady Livia, who had acted similarly. Now they knew the reverse side of the coin. Their breasts heaved, their biceps strained as they pulled on the oars. A steady rhythm was maintained; there was no let up. A tapped drum indicated the required pace.
The routine of a galley-slave was simple. Four hours on an oar, eight hours chained in the hold; back to the oar for another four hours, then back to the hold for a further eight hours. That was the twenty four hour cycle of their existence... and always they were under the threat of the whip. All the galley-slave Overseers were women Each had been specially selected for her height and strength. Some were six feet tall; more when they stood in the high-heeled calf-length boots they wore. They wore simple, short-length tunic dresses of black leather. There were three galley- slave Overseers to each ship and they did two four hour stints in the twenty four hours. Needless to say, those stints were far less arduous than those of the sweating slaves of whom they were in charge! In favourable winds, a square sail was raised which increased speed. But the rowing never ceased. As Princess Venetia’s Flagship, ‘Argos’, was heading west, the direction from which the prevailing wind came, the sail was rarely going to be used on the journey to Barbaria. That meant the journey would take longer. That was of no concern to the Princess. She had plenty of time. It did, however, concern the galley-slaves. Princess Venetia snapped her fingers. A naked slave-girl quickly approached and fell to her knees, head bowing.
“Red wine,” she said. “A flagon. And two goblets.”
“Highness...” murmured the slave and hurried off.
“You will take wine, Tavia?” the Princess enquired of an attractive young woman who reclined on a couch nearby. She had magnificent auburn hair and was clad in a green gown which was as flimsy and attractive as that of the Princess’s. “Thank you, Highness,” smiled the young woman. Only sixteen and daughter of one of the Matrons of the Court, she had recently become one of Princess Venetia’s favourites. It was flattering to be desired and pampered. The slave-girl returned with a gold-chased flagon and two gold goblets on a salver. Her apple-rounded breasts bounced prettily as she moved. She set down the salver and poured wine. Some six months before, she had lived happily and innocently with her parents and sisters on a small island off what is known as the Black Sea coast. A slave-gathering expedition had swept them up and, along with many others, they were taken in chains to the Sythian capital of Calvi. There, this girl, who was considered to be honoured to be a slave of the Royal Court, was quickly trained into total submission and immaculate service. Princess Venetia and Tavia raised their goblets in a toast.
“I expect you’re looking forward to Barbaria, Highness,” the girl said.
“Very much so,” replied the Princess. She smiled briefly and thinly. “It is going to be interesting to humble a woman who, at this moment, is under the impression she rules the world.“ Tavia smiled but more broadly. “Not only interesting, Highness, but exceedingly exciting.”
“Yee... eesss...” said Princess Venetia in a musing voice. She quaffed deeply from her goblet. Her eyes continued to roam over the two female slaves she had had placed on the galley-bench nearest to her... the two women who had once rejoiced in the pride and power of being Lady Helen and Lady Livia of Barbaria. If anything, thought Princess Venetia, the dark-haired one, Livia, looked more distressed than her erstwhile companion. The big rolling-juddering breasts were drenched with sweat; the mouth was sagging and breath rasping. The ship had been in motion half an hour and already it was evident that Livia was beginning not to pull her full weight. She was riding on the strength of the male slave alongside her.
The Princess’s goblet was re-filled and she watched as the galleyslave Overseer began to stroll up and down the cat-walk which separated the two sets of oars. She was aware that there would almost certainly be signs of flagging, especially among the newcomers. Her four-foot long whip of tightly-plaited rhino-hide was coiled - but ready. She came to Livia, saw her sagging shoulders and evident lack of effort. The whip was uncoiled and trailed. Princess Venetia experienced a little frissom of sadistic pleasure. It was satisfying to see any indolent slave feel the whip but all the more so when she was an ex-lady of a rival Court.
The whip flashed up then cracked down across Livia’s sweating white back, the knotted tip curling round and biting into the softness of Livia’s right breast. A gasping shriek rent the mid-morning air. Livia’s mouth gaped wider and her eyes seemed to bulge disbelievingly at the extremity of her pain. Momentarily, Livia slumped over the oar, continuing to shriek and gasp.
“PULL... you fat cow!” bellowed the Overseer above the tumult of sound. “Pull your full weight... or I’ll flog you to ribbons!” Terror gripped Livia. Terror of more such awful pain. Groaning with the effort, she began to haul on her oar once again, but now making a much greater effort. It was the terror that gave her the strength to do so. For a few moments, the Overseer contemplated the ugly red welt she had raised across the slave’s back. Then she strolled back down the cat-walk. She reckoned that particular back would carry many more such welts before the four-hour stint was over.It was noticeable that every slave had begun to make an extra effort. They had witnessed the fall of the whip and they knew it could happen to them.
“How many ships are on the expedition?” enquired Tavia. She was amused by the look of anguished torment on the face of the slave who had just felt the whip. She herself could not possibly imagine what it must be like to be whipped. Just too awful to contemplate... though nice to watch when it was done to others. She herself liked using a flexible rod on her personal slaves whenever they displeased her, but she did not actually whip them. It was unnecessary and too disfiguring. It was, of course, a different matter when one was dealing with galley-slaves. By the Gods, thought Tavia, it must have hurt when that whip-tip bit into the tenderness of her breast. But she was only a slave. She deserved to suffer if she did not make the maxi mum effort.
“Just three,” answered Princess Venetia, “including my Flagship.”
“It does not seem very many,” said Tavia doubtfully.
“With our armaments, it will be quite adequate,” said the Princess, almost smugly. Tavia knew about the miraculous ‘armaments’, but really did not quite understand them. Just so long as they worked; that’s what mattered! The two women continued to recline, feeling the wine coursing pleasantly through their veins. It was cool under the awning on the poop deck. There was no awning over the galley-slave deck, however; there the morning sun beat down relentlessly. How perfectly hideous to be a slave, reflected Tavia, especially if one had once held high rank. She believed there were quite a number in that category chained to the oars at that very moment.
Fate had been unkind to them... but it had been kind to her. That was the way of the world. Perhaps later, she thought with a little pleasurable shiver, I shall have the honour of pleasing the Princess in the cabin below the poop deck. Yes... almost certainly that would happen. Princess Venetia was thinking ahead, wondering about the Princess of Barbaria. Alexena, she understood her name was. That would have to be changed when she became a slave. The name sounded too high and mighty. And this Alexena was going to be made into the most abject slave it was possible to imagine. A thrilling idea! How old will she be, wondered Venetia. Most probably about my age... in her early thirties. She will be proud and arrogant after her long reign. Probably stubborn, too. So much the better. I hope she is beautiful, said Venetia to herself. Very beautiful. For it gave one more pleasure to humble a beautiful woman. Venetia gave herself up to a reverie of sadistically exciting thoughts. She was diverted by the crack of the whip and a hoarse scream from the galley-deck below. Livia had just felt the searing bite of rhino-hide again and, almost immediately afterwards, the blonde ex-Lady Helen felt it too. She squealed like a pig at slaughter.
“You don’t seem to understand what slavery means,” bellowed the Overseer. “It means, first and foremost, OBEDIENCE! When I tell you to pull your full weight, you PULL it! You pull it though you think you’ve got no more strength in you. You’ll pull it because you’ll find you can drag up that strength. So... pull... PULL!”
Twice the whip cracked down again on the command of ‘pull’. Once more across Livia’s back, once more across Helen’s. Their shrieks were terrible but, as the Overseer had predicted, the awful pain enabled them to find that extra strength. They had been on the oar for little over an hour and, like all the other newcomers to such arduous slavery, felt close to exhaustion. But they must go on... and on... and on .. and on... Feeling muscle burning like fire with fatigue... Groaning... sobbing... breath rasping ... So drenched with sweat it looked as if they had just been dragged up out of the sea... Yet always... on... on... on ...on ...on.
The Overseer seated herself at the end of the cat-walk, crossing long bare thighs. It would be good for those nearer the bows to see the striped flesh of those two just under the poop deck. She liked having new galley-slaves under her control. It amused her when they sobbed and sobbed that they could go no longer. They could not possibly. No... no... no... they just COULDN’T! But she made them. Then, if and when they fell senseless over their oar, she had a means of dealing with that too. A harness would be fastened on to the u*********s, exhausted slave and she would be attached to a hook on the end of a kind of crane device projecting over the side of the ship. Then she would be lowered into the sea. Naturally, when in the water, she quickly restored. Then she would be dunked up and down for a period of something like ten minutes. Half a minute under the water and half a minute out of it. Most refreshing! Most conducive to recovery! But that was not the end of it. When the dripping wet slave was hauled back on deck, a penalty had to be exacted for this interlude in her back-breaking efforts. She was fastened face down over the wooden seat on which she rowed and a rod was applied to her buttocks. Ten stimulating strokes! Then it was back to the oar again. And need it be said it was most uncomfortable to have to sit on a newly-striped pair of buttocks. However, it must be remarked on that the reviving qualities of this kind of treatment were really quite amazing. The slave was soon pulling her weight again and seeming not to stint herself. In the Overseer’s experience, in the early stints of a slave’s galleyexperience, a dozen or more slaves would get this treatment in any four-hour session. Then, as they hardened up, got fitter and more experienced, the number of duckings lessened. Nevertheless, the whip was still frequently put to use.
The Overseer had little doubt that the two unfit, over-weight slaves who had already felt rhino- hide would soon be over the side.
PERSONAL ACCOUNT EX-LADY LIVIA
I wish I had died like the brave Captain Varian did. But I was weak, a cowardly woman. Thus I have condemned myself to a life of the cruellest servitude. The life of a galley-slave. Once I commanded galley-slaves. I whipped them into obedience and effort. I enjoyed doing it. I admit it. Now that is all changed and I have become the lowest and most ill-treated of slaves. It is she who has done it. That woman... that Princess... who defeated us with her unimaginable deadly exploding weapons. I still cannot quite believe that it all happened. But it did. It did. Now, as I sweat and strain, chained stark naked to my oar, I catch glimpses of her through my tear-filled eyes. She is reclining at her ease on the poop deck, sipping from a golden goblet. Alongside her, a ravishing young companion. I hate her with every fibre of my being. I HATE HER! For she is the ultimate cause of all my woe. There are ten oars on each side of the galley; two slaves to each oar. Alongside me is a stinking brute of a male. Once a galley-slave for Barbaria. More than likely I’ve whipped him. Now he’s changed sides, but his life has not changed. He is a slave for eternity. Is that what I am too? Oh please, please no! Surely the Gods will look kindly on my dreadful fate! The strain in my arms is becoming unbearable. My muscles burn. My back is one huge ache. Somehow, I must get some relief. I begin to pull rather less powerfully on my oar, allowing the male slave at my side to take most of the strain. It eases my sufferings just a little. I am wet with sweat, my naked breasts heaving. Oh the shame of it!
Then, suddenly, I am aware of the Overseer’s footsteps on the catwalk. I tense and strive to pull harder. Too late. Just as once I had been able to do, she had detected my lessening effort. A searing blaze of fire erupted across my back as the whip cracked loudly... and... agony .. oh agony, the tip of the curly whip bit cruelly into my right breast. The pain was well-nigh unbelievable. I screamed. Robbed of my senses, of my strength. Then I heard her rasping voice as she promised to flog me to ribbons if I did not pull my weight. It was not an idle threat, I knew. Summoning my reserves, I began to pull fully again. An effort beyond describing. I hated that Overseer and her whip. I cursed her. I cursed the world that had brought me so low. And, above all, I cursed the woman who had brought me so low and who now lounged at her ease, doubtless revelling in the sight of my unremitting torments. Perhaps, I said to myself, suddenly and stupidly fantasy-making, a thunderbolt will fall from the Heavens and strike her dead. It did not. How long had I been on my oar? I knew not, but it seemed an age. Yet I knew there was still hours to go How could I endure them? I could hear the grunts and groans of my companion slaves as they toiled unrelentingly. How natural it had seemed to me to make slaves toil till he or she dropped. Now I knew the reverse side of the coin. It was a bitter, bitter revelation I heard the step of the Overseer and increased my effort. I was in quaking dread of her. The footsteps retreated but I did not relax my efforts. It might be a trap. On... on... on... on... on... on... I was beginning to tire again. The effort was too much. I was a soft, well-bred woman unused to making such hideous effort.
How could I be expected to make it? It was unreasonable. Unfair. I wanted to shout and screech the unfairness. Did they not know I was a Lady of Barbaria? Had rights? Should be treated with respect? I wanted to leap up and hurl myself on that woman. Strangle her. At whatever the cost. Yet I was chained helpless. The futility of such a thing was obvious. Perhaps my mind was becoming deranged for even contemplating such a thing. That footstep again; the click of heel... Then once more the agonising bite of the whip. Blazing like a redhot poker over my defenceless back. The tip slicing excruciatingly into my right breast. I screamed, convulsed with pain. Then I heard the whip crack again. The Overseer had given it to poor Helen. How she shrieked! The Overseer’s threats were hammering into us. Sobbing, I forced my aching muscles to renewed effort. How could I go on much longer? Surely I would fall senseless with exhaustion! Crraaacccckkkk! Ccrrraaaccckkk!
The whip fell twice more. Once across my back, once across Helen’s. Our screams of torment rose up into the pale blue sky. The sky which radiated incessant heat down upon us. Both groaning and gasping with effort, Helen and I tugged on our oars. Pull... pull... pull... pull... pull... pull ... The fire in the muscles was worse. Like liquid fire. I began to shudder towards total exhaustion. Weeping... weeping. I saw the woman on the poop deck tossing g****s into her mouth and laughing happily with her companion. I felt sick... with the hate and utter despair. With overwhelming fatigue. My head was beginning to spin; the light seemed to flicker; to come and go. Still I pulled maniacally on the oar. Those weals were like red hot bars; I did not want to feel that whip again. My breasts were heaving up and down like bellows. Sweat as well as tears blinded my eyes.
Then there came a roaring in my head. A great fluttering of black wings. 1 fell into insensibility. Stretched beyond the limits of my physical capacity.
The next thing I knew was that I was freezing. Then choking for air. Sucking in sea water. They must be drowning me. Part of me panicked but another part told me that, at least, it would get me some release. Death. Yes... though I did not want it... it might be best to accept it. Then I was suddenly in the air again. Spurting water; sucking in air. Totally relieved at my release. After being in the freezing water, my head seemed amazingly clear. Colours were vivid. I saw the dark side of the ship. The pain in my welts had intensified. I realised I was in some kind of harness. Looking up, I saw I dangled on a wire from a hook. Like a helpless fish. I kicked and twisted, still gasping in air. Then I was lowered again into the water. It closed over me. Cold and green. I tried to hold my breath as long as I could but I was not strong enough to withstand the pressure. Soon I was panicking again and sucking in draughts of sea-water. It filled me. It sickened me. Yet I was helpless to do anything about it. Then I was raised a second time. Kicking... squirming... spouting water like a gargoyle. I retched and heaved, utterly desperate, utterly despairing. I realised I was at the mercy of the Overseer. She could play with me as if she were landing a fish. Down again. Into the green depths. Sucking in more sea-water. Praying to be pulled back up into the air. Air... I must have air! I was drowning! Then I was back in the sunlight again. Heaving and puking. Not caring about anything else but getting air into my lungs. I tried to beg... to beseech... for mercy. But all that happened was a gurgling eruption of water. Then I was lowered yet again. The terrifying ordeal was renewed.
I do not know exactly how many times I was lowered and raised. Perhaps ten or a dozen times. It seemed to go on for an eternity. Did they intend to go on until they did actually drown me? I knew not. Vividly alive though my mind had now become, I began to despair. The cruelty of this treatment was beyond belief. Then, finally, I realised that I was being hauled up. Raised up to the deck like a fish on a hook. I slumped down, moaning, on the planks. Half-drowned. My lungs were heaving as they took in great gussets of air. Oh the relief... the relief... just to be there. I was conscious that the oars still continued to swing back and forth. Out of the corner of one eye I could see the leather boots of the Overseer standing alongside me. I quailed. How at her mercy I was!
“That should have cleared your head, slave!” she grated. I was seized by my lank, wet hair and hauled up on to my knees. I saw her hard, cruel features close. “Revived you, I hope. For your sake.” I realised then, with shuddering horror, I was going to be put back on my oar. There was a whimpering sound. It was me. Whimpering for mercy. She slapped my face. Left... right... left... right. Again and again.
“Are you revived? Feeling stronger?” I tried to answer but could only gurgle. She slapped my naked breasts. Left... right... left... right. Again and again. “Answer!” she snarled into my face. “Y-Yuuugh... uughhh... er... esss ...” I choked. My face was slapped viciously again and again. “Yes... WHAT... slave?” she yelled. “Uuughh...aaaghhh... y... yer... er ...esss... M-MISS ...” I got out. T hen she pulled me half to my feet and tugged me by my hair across the deck to the bench on which I had been seated. My head was reeling from the slaps but my mind had become very clear. I trembled with fear. The thought of going back on the oar was quite hideous. But, to my surprise, I was flung face down over the bench. Then my wrists and ankles were locked into manacles placed ready on the deck. Panic rose in me again. What was happening? T he Overseer enlightened me.
“There is a penalty, slave,” she said, “for taking a break during your four-hour stint.” I looked up in terror and saw a whippy rod swinging in her hand. “It is ten strokes of this across your backside. Remember in future.” Then, with venomous force, she began to lay the supple rod across my helpless flesh. I screamed and screamed. The pain was not so intense as that of the whip. Not so deep-seated. But it was excruciating all the same and it was repeated over and over again. I threshed wildly over the bench, writhing uncontrollably, tugging and kicking vainly at my manacles. I was being thrashed like the meanest slave. Then, I suddenly and horribly became aware, that was what I had become! Only later, when I was chained back on my oar... I considered what an amusing spectacle I must have made for the Princess and her young companion.
The bitterness within me was like the most acid bile imaginable.